Conservation Science

Mobula ray conservation

Manta and devil rays are targeted by fisheries across the globe. We are using genetic and genomic tools to understand more about this vulnerable group and help inform management and conservation efforts.

Atlantic Manta Ray Mobula
Atlantic Manta Ray cruises around Isla Mujeres in Mexico

Manta and mobula rays are an understudied group of elasmobranchs – fish with skeletons formed of cartilage – found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Unfortunately, they are increasingly being targeted for their gill plates, the body parts they use to filter plankton from the ocean and which are sought after for use in traditional medicine. As a result, manta and mobula ray populations worldwide are in decline. 

Unfortunately, morphological similarities and uncertainties around the naming classification of each species make the identification of mobulids and their traded parts challenging. Because of this, it is very difficult to determine which species are suffering most under fishing and trade pressure. Furthermore, limited understanding of global population structure and evolutionary history prevents the implementation of effective management strategies.

This project sets out to resolve how manta and devil ray species should be classified, and uncover the genetic factors underpinning the diversity within the group. Furthermore, this project aims to characterise global population structure and infer past population size changes in order to put forward conservation recommendations. Finally, this project will provide a genetic means of species identification to both monitor fisheries and aid in the enforcement of CITES regulations.

Please contact Dr Emily Humble or Ana Sobral for further information.

Related links:

Paper: Phylogenomics of manta and devil rays

Shark conservation genetics

Manta Catalog Azores

Manta Trust